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EU to ‘deepen’ research ties with Western Balkans

Image: Antti Lipponen [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Research included in attempt to reassure countries of a future as members in the bloc

The EU has said it will “deepen” its collaboration on research, innovation and education with Western Balkan countries.

The move came as part of the Tirana Declaration, agreed by leaders from both sides on 6 December, which includes reassurances for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia that they are on course to become members of the EU at some point, as fears grow over rising Russian influence in the region.

In the declaration, the EU committed to working more closely with the countries in multiple areas.

“The EU will further deepen its sectoral cooperation with the Western Balkans in areas of common interest, such as justice and home affairs, the economy and the EU internal market, energy, transport and digital policy, civil protection, health, social policy, education and research and innovation,” the declaration says.

It outlines that the EU is already gradually associating Western Balkan countries to its R&I and education programmes. In October the EU announced that all Western Balkan countries will be allowed to fully participate in its scheme for financing cross-border collaborations among higher education institutions, called the European Universities Initiative.

The declaration adds that the EU is working to integrate all Western Balkan countries into its Erasmus+ programme, which supports academic mobility as well as the European Universities Initiative. North Macedonia and Serbia are already associated to Erasmus+.